Entertainment

Alfonso Cuarón Keeps His Mexican Heritage Alive In Everything He Does, Like Oscar Greats Guillermo Del Toro And Alejandro Iñárritu

Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón comes from a rare breed of artists that achieve both commercial success and critic acclaim. With just eight feature films under his belt, Cuarón has done it all: comedy, a sexy road trip movie, a Dickens adaptation, a children’s movie, a Harry Potter film, brainy science fiction, and now an intense and beautiful memoir, Roma. Cuarón won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film and for Best Director at last night’s Golden Globes and we couldn’t be prouder. Here are 21 facts about this once wonder boy turned established auteur.

He is one of the Three Amigos.

Credit: homepage_EP_GuillermoDelToro_AlfomsoCuaron_AlejandrgoGInarrituDigital image. RoberEbert

Along with fellow Mexican directors Guillermo Del Toro and Alejandro González Iñárritu he has taken Hollywood by storm. They have all won the Oscar for Best Director.

He often collaborates with family.

Credit: father-and-son. Digital image. Latino

He co-wrote the script for Y tu mamá también with his brother Carlos. The best: he co-wrote the Oscar-winning script for Gravity with his son Jonás. Qué chingón.

He inserted Mexican elements into the world of Harry Potter.

Credit: f84b19d4c5b5962077403eb3e24451c6. Digital image. Pinterest

Yes, when he took on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban he decided to include elements such as the sugar skulls you can see in the candy shop. No better way to proudly showcase our culture in a global market.

He just loves the color green.

Credit: Sólo con tu pareja. Digital image. Instituto Mexicano de Cinematografia.

Since his debut film Sólo con tu pareja he has shown a predilection for green hues in props and sets. In Mexican film circles, they call his palette “verde Cuarón”

He keeps going back to Mexico to shoot.

Credit: Sólo con tu pareja. Digital image. Instituto Mexicano de Cinematografia.

Many expat directors in Hollywood never go back to their home to shoot a film in their mother tongue. Not the case with Cuarón, who has kept a healthy split between English and Spanish in his work. Gael Garcia Bernal is another entertainer who is using his name to better entertainment in his home country.

He is known for his elaborate long takes.

Credit: Gravity. Warner.

He is famous for offering us mind-blowing long takes that just make no sense but look miraculous. Case in point: that amazing space ballet in Gravity (see above image).

He has a close creative partnership with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki.

Credit: emmanuel_lubezki_alfonso_cuaron. Digital image. Hollywood Reporter.

With Lubezki he has created some of the most beautiful images in recent cinema. Lubezki wasn’t available to shoot Roma so Cuarón shot it himself rather than working with someone else.

He put his career on hold to care for his autistic son.

Credit: alfonso-cuaron. Digital image. Variety.

After 2006’s Children of Men, Cuarón took a long break to properly become a cargiver for his son, who was diagnosed with autism. La familia primero.

He is part of the CUEC generation.

Credit: 1393713337_158281_1393713503_noticia_normal. Digital image. El Pais.

He studied film at the Centro Mexicano de Estudios Cinematográficos in Mexico City. This school has a very unique style influenced by European cinema.

10. He has won it all…

Credit: Giphy. @GoldenGlobes

Oscars, Golden Globes, Golden Lions… you name it. There mustn’t be a single spot available on his mantelpiece!

He is an avid cinephile and it shows.

Credit: 8 1/2. Criterion Collection.

He often includes homages to his favorite films. In Roma, there is a clear reference to Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2. 

Roma is his own life but told from a different perspective.

Credit: Roma. Netflix.

He has often said how Roma truly gave him the freedom to delve deep into his own childhood. What is amazing is that he didn’t do it from his own perspective, but rather from a gaze that was silenced because of class dynamics at the time.

He owes everything to his nanny, Libo.

Credit: alfonso-cuaron-variety-cover-story-2. Digital image. Variety.

Many middle-class Mexico City families rely heavily on domestic workers for emotional labor as well. Libo, who is now a lovely old lady, was Cuarón’s inspiration for the character of Cleo. Their relationship echoes the experience of many Mexico City natives.

He has made some of the best literary adaptations in the history of cinema.

Credit: A Little Princess. Warner Bros.

He is great at directing his own material as well as literary classics such as The Little Princess, Great Expectations, J.K. Rowling’s world and Children of Men, a sci-fi nightmare written by PD James. He has a rare talent that allows him to make the material his own while respecting the spirit of the original.

He even made Charles Dickens sexy!

Credit: Great Expectations. Fox.

Ethan Hawke painting Gwyneth Paltrow como Dios la trajo al mundo. Bring las sales right now! And that kiss by the fountain, tender and so romantic. He made Dickens be part of the 1990s grunge, emo and banal cultural zeitgeist.

He inserted a whole bunch of pop culture references in Children of Men.

Credit: Children of Men. Warner Bros.

Did you notice the Pink Floyd imagery all over apocalyptic London? Well, that is not a coincidence. Just look at this pig balloon casually parading on the background.

And even critiques to the Bush presidency.

Credit: finalabu_01. Digital image. scholarship@cc

In some of the scenes in Children of Men we can see images that clearly reference the abuses committed by the U.S. in countries like Iraq, where navy personnel took photos of prisoners while they abused them. Alfonso is a very meticulous artist and nothing in his films is aleatory.

He defends the Netflix model…

Credit: romapremiere. Digital image. Variety.

He thinks that the best way for a movie to be released is in multiple exhibition windows. He released Roma in selected cinemas and then on Netflix. Guess what? People keep watching it on the big screen!

Roma is a true one-man show.

Credit: image002_-_h_2017. Digital image. The Hollywood Reporter.

He wrote it, directed it, edited it, and shot it. Ah, and he was the producer. Esas canas se llaman Roma! To be honest, even though film production can be a nightmare he looks quite happy doing it judging from this picture, o no?

He speaks out against injustice.

Credit: 16mag-cuaron-slide-L77I-articleLarge. Digital image. The New York Times.

He uses his fame and stature among Mexican intellectual elites to speak out against crimes such as the massacre of 43 students in Ayotzinapa. In his Mexican films, he often mentions how the powerful take land from peasants, as is the case of Cleo’s mom in Roma.

His next project…..

Credit: caseyaffleckofficial / Instagram

There are not many details at the moment other than the star will be the controversial Casey Affleck…. sounds intriguing. We wonder how Cuarón will deal with the sexual harassment allegations against Affleck. We can also guess that it will be a Netflix movie and that Cuarón will continue to explore the limits of film exhibition. Venga!


READ: Alfonso Cuaron’s ‘Roma’ Took Home Two Awards At The 2019 Golden Globes

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Mexico Has Made It Illegal To Buy And Sell Moss: What Will Your Tías Use For Their Nacimientos Now?

Culture

Mexico Has Made It Illegal To Buy And Sell Moss: What Will Your Tías Use For Their Nacimientos Now?

sony_a6000photos / Instagram / Pinterest

Growing up Mexican I looked forward to the Christmas season yes, tbh mostly because of presents but also because it was the time when mom and I got to go way overboard with our Nativity Scene decorations. If you’re Latino, putting up a nacimiento is just as essential a part of Christmas, as putting up a tree. If there’s one cliche that has proven to be true, time and again, it’s that Latino moms tend to be extra AF in everything they do. The representations of Jesus’s birth vary from minimal, to OTT baroque, to hyper-realistic. There’s one element that remains the most important aspect of the nacimiento across the board, in Mexico at least, the moss and other dense green clumps are usually used to adorn the decoration. So, what if we told you that buying and selling moss is actually illegal in Mexico?

Nacimiento, Pesebre, or Belen, are the names that different Latin American countries give to the traditional Nativity Scene representation under the Christmas tree.

Credit: Pinterest

The representation of Jesus’s birth, known as nacimiento in Mexico, pesebre in Colombia and other South American countries, or Belen in Spain, is a centuries-old tradition in the Catholic world. All you really need to tell the story are three basic figures: Virgin Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. But why limit yourself? 

You could make the case that the three wise men and the star that guided them to the newborn baby are also essential. Jesus was born in a stable because there was no place at the inns in Bethlehem, so naturally, there should be farm animals around, and hay, and moss —and why not a stream made of cellophane, while you’re at it? 

Nativity Scenes are usually elaborate, over the top extravaganzas that families work tirelessly on for the holiday season.

In Mexico and many other countries of Latin America, nacimientos can turn into elaborate extravaganzas, populated by all manner of animals and plants that you would never find side by side in the real world. Some scenes display pump-operated rivers with real water, others feature waterfalls and ponds. Some include whole cities built around the manger where Jesus was born. The creative license extends to the characters, which range from unrelated biblical figures such as Adam and Eve to random shepherds, farmers, and the devil. It’s clearly not an exercise in authenticity, but it’s festive and fun.

Part of the fun is the use of moss and other types of grass to add to the ‘look’. 

Credit: Pinterest

Moss is used to decorate the scene, but it also has a special symbolism. Spanish moss is of particular importance in the catholic representation of baby Jesus’s birth. A little patch of the gray grass is always placed underneath Satan —to highlight his presence and set him apart from the rest of the crowd. According to tradition, Satan should always be present in a nacimiento to remind us that although the birth of Jesus offers love and the possibility of redemption, sin and evil are always present in the world —and moss plays a big part in his representation.

As soon as November starts drawing to an end and December is around the corner, every mercado in Mexico is flooded by vendors who sell the coveted greenery of the season. 

Credit: @jjoel777 / Twitter

Every city and town has a market where, for about a month between the end of November and the first week in January, a large number of vendors offer items, especially for Christmas.  Some larger cities, like Mexico City, Guadalajara, Morelia, and others, offer several tianguis navideños (Christmas markets) where literally hundreds of vendors set up shop, to sell the infamous moss. 

But as it turns out, selling and/or buying moss is illegal.

Credit: losconfites_organicfarm / Instagram

This type of grass is essential for the survival of Mexican forests. The species is protected by the country, which makes its trade ilegal —and you might want to think twice before you buy it. 

Mosses are actually essential for the health and wellbeing of many ecosystems and all the organisms that inhabit them.

Credit: sony_a6000photos / Instagram

The term moss encompasses any of at least 12,000 species of small land plants. Mosses are distributed throughout the world except in saltwater and are commonly found in moist shady locations. They are best known as those species that carpet woodland and forest floors. Ecologically, mosses capture water and filter it to underground streams, or substrata, releasing nutrients for the use of more complex plants that succeed them. They also aid in soil erosion control by providing surface cover and absorbing water, and they are important in the nutrient and water economy of some vegetation types. Essentially, they are the pulse of forests and ecosystems everywhere.

Protection and conservation are relatively novel concepts in Mexican bryology, the branch of botany that studies mosses. 

Credit: @elbigdatamx / Twitter

Mexico is home to more than 900 recorded species of moss —and much of the country’s territory is yet to be explored thoroughly for more flora. However, local mosses face habitat destruction and over-harvesting as their major threat. 

In 1993, a diagnostic study of mosses that required protection Mexico was conducted, and supported by the federal government as well as other international agencies. At the time, six species were recognized as ‘rare’ or ‘endangered’ and were placed under official protection. 

The Secretariat of Environmental and Natural Resources of Mexico regulates the extraction and trade of moss. 

Credit: @iinfodeac / Twitter

In order to extract moss from its natural habitat, and furthermore, to commercialize it, vendors must follow strict requirements in order to attain a license. According to Mexican Forest Law 001 expedited by SEMARNAT (The Secretariat of Environmental and Natural Resources of Mexico), the extraction of moss is only permitted when the plant is in a mature state and ready for harvest, other conditions require that moss must be extracted in parcels of no more than 2 meters of width and that only 50 percent of each patch of moss may be extracted, etc. 

During this time of year, Mexican police are on high alert. 

Credit: @mimorelia / Twitter

Around the holiday season, police in Mexico double up on their patrolling. Authorities will be on high alert, inspecting those establishments who are authorized to sell moss and searching for those who aren’t. The Secretariat of Environmental and Natural Resources and the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection will be watching —so you might want to tell your mom and tias to avoid shopping for moss in Mexico this year.

READ: Check Out Some Of The Most Tiny And Adorable Nacimientos

Mexican Artist Transforms 1,527 Deadly Guns Into Life-Giving Shovels To Plant Trees

Things That Matter

Mexican Artist Transforms 1,527 Deadly Guns Into Life-Giving Shovels To Plant Trees

botanicocln / veri_fp / Instagram

A Mexican artist and activist embarked on a project to gather as many firearms as he could from Culiacán, Mexico, the city with the highest death by gun violence rate in Mexico, and transform them into shovels that would instead plant trees. Artist Pedro Reyes, a Mexico City native, has long been using his art to illustrate how evil can be transformed into good, with the right perspective. While the United States has, by far, the highest number of firearms per capita (120.5 per 100 persons), Mexico ranks 60th in the world. Pedro Reyes wanted to do his part in getting the deadly weapons off the street.

Reyes set out in Culiacán, Mexico, to trade civilian’s weapons for coupons for electronics, and residents traded 1,527 weapons.

Pedro Reyes’s project, known as “Palas por Pistolas” publicized the gun exchange on television ads and through local media.

Credit: bintazd / Instagram

 All of this was made possible by the botanical garden of Culiacán, which has been commissioning artists to perform social impact interventions for years. Reyes made a proposal to the garden to organize a city-wide campaign for a voluntary donation of weapons. The commission was able to pay for television advertisements and liaise with local media to promote the project. Soon, the whole city knew that residents were invited to give up their guns in exchange for a coupon. Those coupons were then traded at a local store in exchange for domestic appliances and electronics.

Of the 1,527 weapons collected, 40 percent were automatic weapons, “exclusively” used for the military.

Credit: molaaart / Instagram

The second phase of the project was put on public display. All 1,527 guns were taken to a military zone and were crushed by a steamroller in a public act. Then, the pieces were taken to a foundry and melted down to its original form. Once again, the same metal that was transformed into guns became a ‘blank page,’ available to transform into absolutely anything. Reyes worked with a major hardware factory to create molds that would create exactly 1,527 shovels. 

Since they’ve been repurposed, 1,527 trees have been planted.

Credit: molaaart / Instagram

The shovels have been on display at a variety of art institutions. Admirers could read an inscription of the shovel’s origin story on the handle. Later, children and adults alike would feel the weight of what was once a gun in their hands as they dug up dirt to plant new life. Trees have been planted at the Vancouver Art Gallery, San Francisco Art Institute, Paris’s Maison Rouge, Lyon Biennial, Marfa, Texas, and Denver, Colorado.

“This ritual has a pedagogical purpose of showing how an agent of death can become an agent of life,” Reyes said of the project. 

Credit: botanicocln / Instagram

Like every other Reyes project to date, the gift is a change in perspective. For whoever might have been injured or died at the hands of those 1,527 guns, as many trees have been planted in their honor. Reyes breaks down the concept of a gun to what it is: human intention and scrap metal. With a simple shift in intention, that metal has created lasting memories for children and created oxygen-giving life on this planet.  

Since “Palas por Pistolas,” Reyes has also installed “Imagine,” a similar concept that instead turns guns into musical instruments.

Credit: Pedro Reyes

In April 2012, Reyes was given the opportunity to transform human intention once again. “I got a call from the government who had learned about Palas por Pistolas,” Reyes said. “They told me a public destruction of weapons was to take place in Ciudad Juarez and asked me if I was interested in keeping the metal, which would otherwise have been buried as usual. I accepted the material but I wanted to do something new this time. 6700 weapons, cut into parts and rendered useless, were given to me and I set out to make them into instruments.”

“A group of 6 musicians worked for 2 weeks shoulder-to-shoulder turning these agents of death into instruments of life.”

Credit: Pedro Reyes

Reyes said it was far more challenging than simply turning the metal into shovels. The metal had to create sounds. “It’s difficult to explain but the transformation was more than physical,” Reyes writes. “It’s important to consider that many lives were taken with these weapons; as if a sort of exorcism was taking place the music expelled the demons they held, as well as being a requiem for lives lost.”

Living in a community free of guns ought to be a human right. Many liberties that we enjoy today were considered utopian, and the first step taken into that direction was to Imagine.” Reyes continues to draw attention not only to where guns are used, but where they are made. It is an industry and one he continues to reclaim for life.

READ: Mexicans Are Questioning Their Government’s Decision To Release El Chapo’s Son After A Massive Gun Battle